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Introduction to the Systems Biology Training Program

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What is Systems Biology?

Systems biology describes the scope of inquiry and range of techniques employed to address large-scale research projects. It cuts across disciplines by integrating traditional approaches with new technologies and quantitative analysis. Systems biology allows coordinated research teams to perform cutting edge health research by integrating data from gene to patient.

How is Systems Biology applied to biomedical research?

Systems biology approaches to medical research have proven very powerful. In place of traditional “reductionist” paradigms, systems biology employs a whole-organism approach, employing sophisticated tools and methods to provide more detailed and sophisticated understanding of how genes and proteins interact dynamically in both health and disease. These data are often correlated or verified with clinical data, resulting in a gene-to-patient approach to health. Systems biology approaches are increasingly producing clinical successes for a range of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, and many orphan/neglected diseases.

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What is the Systems Biology Training Program?

The Systems Biology Training Program is designed to provide McGill PhD students with a broad understanding of a systems biology approach to health research. The program will provide training and experience in the three components of systems biology, as depicted in the program's logo: life science, quantitative science, and technology development and application. These three components combine to understand and inform clinical observations in health research. Students will identify a supervisor that participates within an interdisciplinary team of researchers at McGill. For Systems Biology, such "teams" or "groups" usually involve one or more basic life science researchers, quantitative scientists (statisticians, computer scientists, mathematicians) and technology developers (individuals who develop or use high-throughput technologies). Ideally the identified team also has some "translational" expertise related to clinical and medical applications. Students will participate in lab rotations *within their team* and collaborate with these researchers from differing specializations, in order to become fluent in the methods and philosophy of systems biology. As such, the Systems Biology training program is light-weight since it allows students to remain in close to contact with their research throughout the various training exercises. By the end of their studies, trainees will be well-positioned to initiate and drive interdisciplinary systems biology research programs, and will be prepared to fully engage in the future of health research.

Who should apply to the Systems Biology Training Program?

The Systems Biology Training Program is designed for McGill PhD students working in biomedical research-related fields, whether in traditional wet-bench disciplines like Biochemistry and Biology, quantitative disciplines like Computer Science and Biostatistics, or technological disciplines like Chemistry and Engineering. Students from various departments will have access to the facilities and technologies at the new McGill Life Sciences Complex and Genome Centre, and at various other locations on campus.

How do I apply to the Systems Biology Training Program?

Students who have recently begun, or are planning to begin, their PhD studies are encouraged to apply. More detailed information is available here, including information about the program requirements and description, course outlines, and application information.